Thirty-two days passed before I truly understood the greatness of Wadsworth quarterback Joey Baughman.
Very similar to athletes, writers don’t appreciate moments until weeks, months and sometimes years go by. Your focus is only on the immediate present, when a job needs finished with 100 percent effort and accuracy before a no-questions-asked deadline. Emotions can come later.
A very reliable source told me earlier in the week that Baughman had a legitimate chance to win Mr. Football. As I researched Tuesday night for a potential story, something stuck with me.
I immediately called sports editor Betty Szudlo with the excitement of a kid who tied his shoes for the first time.
“Betty, it just hit me. Joey Baughman had 520 friggin’ yards against Hudson! Five-twenty!”
This little story may sound stupid — I covered the game, after all — but 247 yards rushing, 273 yards passing, five rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns? At the two-time defending Division II state runner-up’s house to clinch a 10-0 regular season?
Please tell me a better single performance in Medina County regular-season history. You can’t.
The point is Baughman did this type of stuff all season. We all have our qualms with who gets picked for All-Ohio teams — I’m still salty about Black River’s Andrew Vaughn not getting first-team All-Ohio in 2013 — but Baughman was 100 percent deserving of Mr. Football.
Nevermind the statistics for a minute. They certainly were a major factor in why Baughman won, but anyone who watched Baughman play knew the 6-foot-1, 192-pounder passed the eye test.
The measure of greatness is making plays when everyone knows who’s getting the ball. Wadsworth’s five-wide offense was predictable at times in that regard — most high school offenses are — as a Brock Snowball motion into the backfield was a heavy tendency for a zone or power read and a QB draw often was the call on critical third-and-shorts.
But all the scheming in the world didn’t matter. Almost every defense had a linebacker spying Baughman’s every move, and Baughman would beat him to the edge, break his ankle with a cut or carry him downfield for extra yardage.
Blitzes? Forget ’em. Baughman would recognize them pre-snap and attack somewhere else. Ask the Explorers what happened when they blitzed the lone safety while trying to play man coverage. Baughman went up the middle 82 yards to the house.
Then there’s the passing, where Baughman didn’t get enough credit because he was such a great open-field runner and the outstanding offensive line often gave him all day to sling the pigskin. Wadsworth loved to throw short across the middle and deep outside, and Baughman put the ball right on the money nearly every time. Even rollouts away from his right hand were textbook, as he squared his shoulders and fired bullets to the sideline.
The most notable game outside of Hudson was North Royalton, which instructed its linemen to remain at the line of scrimmage to contain Baughman’s scrambling. Baughman still ran for 70 yards, threw for a county-record 416 and accounted for five touchdowns against a Bears team that finished 6-4.
Against Sylvania Northview in the first round of the Division II playoffs, Baughman had 202 yards rushing, 220 yards passing, five passing touchdowns and a 63-yard rushing score as the Grizzlies scored on nine consecutive possessions against a defense that was allowing 12.8 points per game.
Even in a loss to Olmsted Falls, Baughman had 408 yards total offense and made one his best throws of the season when he fired off his back foot yet somehow lofted a perfect, over-the-shoulder touch throw to a well-covered Mitchell Blackburn for a 27-yard touchdown.
Oh, and was it mentioned Baughman threw only three interceptions in 326 attempts?
Baughman’s statistics have been chronicled well in this publication, but this line may be my favorite: In five games that didn’t have running clocks, Baughman ran or threw on 220-of-279 plays (78.9 percent) and compiled an average line of 201 yards rushing, 211.8 yards passing and 4.6 combined touchdowns.
Dude’s a beast. Plain and simple.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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